We’re always hearing about things that come in sevens: Sinbad sailed the Seven Seas, the Pleiades is a constellation of seven stars, also known as the Seven Sisters; when we are ecstatic we are in Seventh Heaven; Jacob worked for his evil father-in law for seven years to pay for Rachel, but got Leah instead, then had to work another seven for Rachel again. And don’t forget the Seven Dwarves! And for some reason or other, there are Seven days in a week. Who thought that up??? Why not eight, nine, or ten??? I mean, there’s no law that says there have to be seven days in a week, is there? Seems strange.
In Inner Torah Judaism, there are Seven layers of Heaven. There are also Seven levels of Hell! And you have to go through each one of them, getting your soul cleaned out like a giant washing machine. No thanks.
So what’s the big deal with the number Seven?
A cube. It has four sides all around, one on the top, and one on the bottom. That makes six sides. Hold that thought.
If you have a cube, then it must contain something, right? What does it contain? Wood? Plastic? Air? Who cares? It contains the seventh element. The seventh element is The Inner Space. Or if you prefer, the seventh element of a cube could be a point in the center of the cube. The Six is on the Outside, and the Seven is on the Inside.
Now let’s return to Six. What has six? A week has six. “Sheshit yamim ta’avod ve’ta’aseh kol melachechah….” Six days you will work and do all the things you have to do….” A Hebrew week has six days. The work week starts on Saturday night (yup!) and goes until just before sundown on Friday evening. At that point, in an Orthodox Jewish home, every kind of work stops: no cooking, cleaning, yard work, painting, no kindling of fires of any sort including the use of electricity (lights go on timers), no TV, video games, music, iPhone, iPad, iAnything. No driving, horseback riding, cattle rustling or rounding up bison on ATVs.
It is the Seventh Day.
Va’yachulu ha’shamayim ve’ha’aretz ve’kol tzeva’am
And the Heavens and the Earth were finished, and all of their hosts
Va’ya’chal Elo-him ba’yom ha’shevi’i melachto asher asah
And G-d finished making the labors that He made
Va’yishbot Elo-him ba’yom ha’shevi’i mi kol melachto asher asah
And G-d rested on the Seventh Day from all the labors that He made
Va’yevorech Elo-him et yom hashevi’i va’yekadesh otoh
And G-d blessed the Seventh Day and separated it
Ki voh shavat mi’kol melachto asher bara Elo-him la’asot
For He rested upon It from all the works that He created to do.
What is the secret of Seven? It is the Sabbath. As we are created in the image of G-d, so do we follow His example. If G-d rested on the Seventh Day, it makes a lot of sense that we should too. It’s a time of pulling back, introspection, recharging of batteries. It’s a time of celebration, eating and drinking, singing songs and telling stories, hanging out with family and friends, traveling (before Shabbat) to other families to share in their Shabbat. It’s a complete separation from the workweek and all of the things that one does during the week.
In Hebrew, the days start on the evening before. They are called First Day, Second Day, etc., until we get to the Seventh Day, which is called Shabbat. Why do we call it Shabbat? Because it’s derived from a Hebrew word “to rest.” It’s in the text above: “Ki voh shavat mi kol…” “For on It He rested from all…” In fact, if you look closely and listen with soft eyes to the word “shavat” you will hear the Hebrew word “shevah,” Seven. Shevah. Seven. Hmmmm.
Speaking of the text above: what is it and why did I write it here?
It’s a part of the prayer that’s sung at the Shabbat dinner table in the evening, sung standing, holding a full cup of wine. It’s a prayer that celebrates entering sacred space, where we will remain for 25 hours before being spit back out into the world. It’s the heralding of a haven: an island in time. The Seventh Day.
In Kabbalistic space-time, it also heralds the Messianic Era, which is known as The Great Shabbat. In it, we will no longer know war, strife, hunger, or suffer any of the evils of our present world. We will be able to turn our attention to eating, drinking, singing, dancing, studying delicious Sacred texts, and who knows what because we haven’t been there yet: but–we get a taste of it on Shabbat.
Six days of the week, like the sides of our cube, are openly visible, without any secrets. The Seventh Day, the Shabbat, is laden with secrets.
The Seventh Day, the Shabbat, is the Inner aspect of the week. In it hide the secrets of the Great Shabbat, and true liberation!